Swimming for weight loss: The best strokes and why they work

Swimming is an efficient form of exercise that can help to burn calories. You just need to know the right swimming strokes for weight loss.

Swimming is one the best and fun ways to beat the heat and also lose weight. According to a study published on ResearchGate, the water-based exercise helped to improve more body weight, body fat distribution, and insulin in the short term than walking. In the longer term, swimming helped with body weight and lipid measures. Let’s find out the best swimming strokes for weight loss.

For some swimming tips for weight loss, Health Shots connected with New Delhi-based certified fitness and nutrition coach Abhi Singh Thakur.

Swimming is a great way to lose weight. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How many calories does swimming burn?

Swimming is an efficient form of exercise because it targets multiple muscle groups. It is also low-impact, making it suitable for people of varying fitness levels. While it may help to burn calories, its effectiveness depends on several factors such as the intensity and duration of the activity, the swimmer’s weight and swimming technique. Thakur says that on an average, a woman can burn about 400 to 600 calories per hour of swimming.

Here is a breakdown of calories burned per hour for various swimming activities for a woman weighing about 70 kg:



• Slow, leisurely swimming: About 280 calories
• Moderately fast freestyle or backstroke: About 400 to 500 calories.
• Vigorous freestyle or butterfly swimming: About 600 to 700 calories.
• Swimming with high-intensity interval training: Depending on the intensity and duration of the intervals, you can burn over 700 calories or more.

But remember that these numbers might vary!



Know the swimming strokes that are great for weight loss. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Swimming tips for weight loss

There are certain things to keep in mind if you are swimming for weight loss.

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1. Consistency

Consistency is key when it comes to weight loss, so make swimming a regular part of your exercise routine. Aim for three to five sessions per week, suggests Thakur. By maintaining a consistent schedule, you create a habit that allows your body to adapt and benefit from the calorie-burning effects of swimming over time.

2. Intensity

To maximize weight loss, incorporate intervals or high-intensity swimming into your workouts. This alternates periods of high intensity and active recovery. High intensity intervals increase your heart rate, boost your metabolism, and promote calorie burning during and after swimming.

3. Variety

Varying your swimming routine helps to engage different muscle groups and prevents boredom. Experiment with different swimming strokes as each stroke works different muscles. By incorporating a variety of strokes into your workouts, you can target multiple areas of your body for a more balanced and effective workout.

4. Technique

Paying attention to proper swimming technique can make your workouts
more efficient and help to prevent injuries. Focus on maintaining good body alignment, streamlining your body position in the water, and using proper breathing techniques. Don’t worry, an instructor can help you with the techniques.

Best swimming strokes for weight loss

Each stroke engages different muscle groups and can contribute to overall calorie burning and fitness. Here are four popular swimming strokes:

1. Freestyle

• Start by positioning yourself face down in the water, with your body streamlined and extended.
• Kick your legs in a flutter kick motion, keeping them relatively straight and using your hips to generate power.
• Reach forward with one arm, entering the water with your fingertips, and pull it back alongside your body, past your hip.
• As you complete the arm pull, rotate your body slightly to the side to breathe, and repeat the process with the other arm.
• Maintain a smooth and continuous motion, coordinating your kicks and arm movements.

2. Backstroke

• Begin by floating on your back, with your body extended and relaxed.
• Flutter kick your legs, similar to the freestyle kick, but on your back.
• Alternate your arm movements by reaching overhead, entering the water with pinky finger first, and pulling it back alongside your body.
• Keep your body aligned and maintain a steady rhythm while continuously kicking and moving your arms.

3. Breaststroke

• Start in a position similar to the backstroke, floating on your back.
• Bend your knees and then bring your heels closer to your buttocks.
• Extend your legs outward, simultaneously pushing your arms forward and out in front of
you.
• As your arms reach their maximum extension, bring your legs together, bending at the knees, and then kick outward.
• Recover your legs by bringing them back together and repeating the leg kick as your arms complete the pull phase.

4. Butterfly

• Begin facedown in the water with your body streamlined and extended.
• Perform a dolphin kick, where your legs move together in a wave-like motion.
• As your legs kick downward, simultaneously bring your arms forward and out of the water.
• As your legs kick upward, pull your arms back alongside your body, entering the water with your fingertips.
• Coordinate the kick and arm pull in a continuous, undulating motion, keeping your body aligned and your movements fluid.

While swimming can help in burning calories, weight loss is not solely dependent on it. It is also influenced by other factors like nutrition and overall lifestyle.

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